Several ports lie unguarded, reveals IB audit

No urgency even 7 years after 26/11 Mumbai terror attack

Several ports lie unguarded, reveals IB audit

Several ports in India are sitting ducks on security front, as an audit conducted by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) showed that 75 out of 203 smaller ports have no security force even for namesake to guard them.

While 12 major ports are secured by the CISF and periodical security audits are conducted, no such exercises were taken up for smaller ports until a few months ago.

The security audit for smaller ports was conducted for the first time after the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs recommended such a measure in February this year.

This comes at a time the government is giving more emphasis on coastal security following the Mumbai attacks of 2008 in which terrorists entered the city through the sea route and wreaked havoc. Ports have also emerged as possible targets for terrorists trying to target vital installations.

According to the audit, out of the 203 non-major/minor ports across the country, "45 are non-operational while 75 have no security force even for namesake to guard them."
This list includes 49 non-major ports--21 in Gujarat, nine in Maharashtra, six in Tamil Nadu, five in Andhra Pradesh, two each in Karnataka and Puducherry and one each in Goa, the Andaman Nicobar Islands, Kerala and Odisha.

Furthering the security trouble, many of these non-operational ports are being used as fish-landing jetties.

Guarded ports have issues

Even in ports with security, there are several short-comings in the existing arrangements as in many instances, X-ray machines  are not available, non-maintenance of record of incoming and outgoing communications, "to name a few".

The IB has suggested to the states to install adequate number of CCTVs, speed breakers inside and outside the gates and deploy bomb disposal squad at ports. It also wanted the states to declare port as "prohibited area" for fishing. "Random checking of tiffin boxes of employees must be carried out during entry or exit," the audit said.

Panel overlooked

Interestingly, the Ministry of Shipping had set up a committee in July 2009 to devise security standards for ports but there was no forward movement in implementing its recommendations submitted in August 2011.

In its latest report tabled in the Parliament last week, the Standing Committee has expressed its “shock” at the “grave deficiencies” highlighted in the security audit.

“This report should act as an alarm bell for government, particularly in reference to such ports in Gujarat and Maharashtra,” the panel said.

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